COVID-19: forget about business as usual when the crisis is over

ECONOMIC ANALYSIS – business as usual. We already hear some analysts say that things will go back to normal when the pandemic is over. Forget it: we are experiencing a health, social and economic crisis of unprecedented magnitude in a century that will change our economy and the lives of our businesses.

The shock wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the world is simply dizzying.

Hundreds of millions of people are confined to their homes. The economy is shrinking. Countless workers are losing their jobs or seeing their hours reduced. Businesses are on the brink of bankruptcy. And the pressure is overwhelming on health services.

As of Friday, March 20, there were at least 266,000 people worldwide infected with the coronavirus, of which 11,150 died, according to the site. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resources Center.

The epidemic seems to be under control in China (the country of origin of the coronavirus), but also in other countries such as Japan and South Korea, emphasizing FinancialTimes. On the other hand, Europe has become the center of the pandemic, while cases are still progressing in North America, including Quebec, which is doing relatively well so far.

The situation is serious. German Chancellor Angela Merkel even said this week that Germany was facing the “worst crisis since World War II”.

This crisis can actually be compared to disasters such as the First World War, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919, the Depression of the 1930s and the Second World War.

However, all these crises have brought about major changes, from the liberation of women to the creation of modern health systems, including the birth of social programs and the establishment of common institutions to maintain world peace. .

The current coronavirus pandemic will also have a significant impact on our lives, starting with entrepreneurs and business leaders.

#1 – You will never travel the same way again

If the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States adopted security measures for aviation, the coronavirus pandemic should also contribute to strengthening health measures at airports in particular to prevent a new pandemic someday.

No one wants to relive this nightmare.


Also, at the Montreal-Trudeau airport, it’s not surprising to see, for example, one day the appearance of thermal cameras to identify travelers with a fever.

One can also imagine a permanent system where business leaders must automatically report to public authorities, upon returning from a business trip, any manifestation of flu-like symptoms.

This measure will also apply to tourists and all Quebecers.

#2 – You will need to strengthen cleanliness in your organization

A coronavirus pandemic is likely to be the sound of death for the days that sick employees return to the office or factory to work, talking to their colleagues while some of them are contaminated.

Social pressure will be strong to keep work environments safe, even for the regular flu virus.

Therefore, employers need to be more obedient to their employees who will call to say they are ill and they are working at home, if their condition allows it. Of course, some employees will abuse the system.

However, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

Having disinfectant gel dispensers at the entrance to offices, public bodies or factories will no doubt be common.

Asian countries like Singapore, Japan or South Korea can be a source of inspiration. The culture of epidemic prevention is very developed there, as Asia has been the cradle in the history of several epidemics.

In Hong Kong, for example, elevators in some office towers are systematically disinfected several times a day using automated steam jets (when the elevator is empty).

We are only a few years away from such activities in North America.

#3 – Get ready for the telework explosion

In Quebec alone, hundreds of thousands of people have been teleworking for more than a week, due to detention instructions ordered by the Legault government to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

And, other than a big surprise, people working from home will have to do so for several weeks before the epidemic is controlled and the number of infected people drops.

However, many people are currently fond of telework, as it facilitates work-family balance. Imagine when schools reopen and parents can work quietly and better from home.

In this context, it’s hard to see how all these people working from home will provide the benefits of teleworking overnight. Sure, many would love to be back in the office, but they definitely want flexibility.

It’s written in the sky: in the context of labor shortages, employers who show openness and facilitate telework find it easier to recruit new employees, in addition to retaining them longer.

(Photo: Getty Images)

#4 – You will need to speed up your digital transformation

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic varies across businesses.

While some companies are closing their doors due to declining demand and confinement, others still manage to maintain their activities, such as the financial, legal or engineering sectors.

Of course, activities or services are by their nature difficult to perform or deliver remotely, starting with catering, manufacturing, construction, entertainment or events.

That said, the status quo is no longer really an option.

Many companies need to rack their brains to find a way to continue their activities or deliver their services remotely (in whole or in part) using current and emerging technologies.

We can think of, for example, assembly lines that can be run remotely or shows that can be displayed in person or remotely (with prices changed according to the formula).

Perhaps the resilient restaurants or cafes open are the ones that can serve their customers personally or remotely.

A new crisis in the future should no longer paralyze the economy as it does now.


#5 – You’ll need to consider “just in case”

Just-in-time production management is becoming more prevalent in companies. Understandably, as it saves on inventory management and warehousing costs, not to mention some peace of mind.

However, the coronavirus pandemic is shaky in this paradigm.

It’s hard to hear, but here’s the harsh truth: new viruses are likely to become more common in the coming decades due to global warming, deforestation and the increased closeness between humans and exotic animals, experts say in public health.

Also, prevention is better than cure, considering the “just in case” approach to managing your production.

Thus, without returning to the systematic storage and construction of new warehouses, many companies will no doubt store more parts, equipment or finished products in reserve.

So they will be more independent in case a strategic supplier fails or, worse, the partial, or even total, disruption of their supply chain.

Not to say that just-in-case will benefit from joining a healthy geographical diversity of suppliers, with the example of a supplier in Asia and North America.

The coronavirus pandemic affects most businesses in Quebec.

And entrepreneurs need to show patience and resilience between now and the end of this crisis, which could take weeks or even months, according to Prime Minister François Legault.

But we must remain optimistic, because the tsunami will come to an end in this economy and gradually return to a certain normalcy, as we see in the developed economies of Asia.

Financial support from governments will also help businesses weather the storm.

However, once the quiet returns, many things will change or need to change in the way we think about our security and driving the economy.

You just need to start understanding it now to prepare for it.

Come on, we will not give up, we will get through it!

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